WASHINGTON — Senators tore into Ticketmaster owner LiveNation on Tuesday, accusing it of unfair practices that have caused heartache for Taylor Swift fans who were denied tickets to the pop star’s Eras tour last fall.
In its first hearing of the new Congress, the Senate Judiciary Committee considered Ticketmaster’s merger with LiveNation in 2010, which witnesses said created a monopoly resulting in unfairly high prices for viewers.
“I believe in capitalism, and to have a strong capitalist system, you have to have competition,” said Rep. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). “You can’t have too much consolidation – something that unfortunately for this country, as an ode to Taylor Swift, I’ll say we know ‘too well’.”
Things came to a head last November when Ticketmaster’s site crashed during a Swift ticket presale. The company blamed fans and online bot attacks for overwhelming its servers and causing potential spectators to lose tickets after waiting for hours in an online queue.
Ticketmaster subsequently canceled the general sale of Swift tickets due to “extraordinarily high demands on the ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet this demand”. The company had asked fans to sign up for the presale, and over 3.5 million people did, a record for the company.
Ticketmaster CEO Joe Berchtold apologized to Swift fans and Swift herself on Tuesday and acknowledged the company needed to do better. However, Berchtold insisted that artists and venues set ticket prices and service fees – and decide how many tickets will go on sale. The company acknowledges collecting flat-rate delivery, service and order processing fees.
These additional fees represent around 27% of the face value of the ticket, with fees as high as 37%, according to a study published by the Government Accountability Office in 2018 and cited by Klobuchar on Tuesday.
Berchtold said the ticketing industry would like lawmakers to focus on the growing problem of ticket scalping and ban fraudulent practices, such as resellers offering tickets that are not yet officially on sale. He also said the industry should be more transparent about pricing and fees.
Through its merger with LiveNation, Ticketmaster owns approximately 200 major concert venues in the United States. The world’s largest ticket seller, Ticketmaster sells about 70% of tickets for all major venues — largely through exclusive contracts, according to a federal lawsuit filed by ticket buyers filed last year. It also handles 500 million ticket sales each year in over 30 countries.
With post wires